Michelangelo da Caravaggio

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Michelangelo da Caravaggio

The Conversion on the Way to Damascus
Oil on canvas, 230 x 175 cm
Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome

The Conversion of St. Paul
Oil on cypress wood, 237 x 189 cm
Odescalchi Balbi Collection, Rome

St. John the Baptist (Youth with Ram)
c. 1600
Oil on canvas, 129 x 94 cm
Musei Capitolini, Rome

Oil on canvas, 110 x 91 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

The Sacrifice of Isaac
Oil on canvas, 104 x 135 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

The Crowning with Thorns
Oil on canvas, 127 x 165,5 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas
Oil on canvas, 107 x 146 cm
Sanssouci, Potsdam

Supper at Emmaus
Oil on canvas, 139 x 195 cm
National Gallery, London

Love Rules the World

Light and shade in Caravaggio's life


Amor rules everything, as ancient
writers say. All that Cupid really rules
is our hearts. Only your Amor,
Caravaggio, conquers both hearts
and the senses.

Marzio Milesi, On Michelangelo Merisida Caravaggio

Amor Victorious
Amor vincit omnia (Profane Love)
Oil on canvas, 156 x 113 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Amor, Eros, Cupid no matter what name he is hiding behind, it is always the god of love that is talked about, the driving force in the world. Succumb to his charms at your own peril: "Amor remains a knave. Whoever trusts him will be deceived", wrote Goethe, who surely knew from experience. In antiquity Amor was depicted as boyishly charming and wearing wings. From the fourth century BC, he carried a bow and arrows.

This last guise was the motif Michelangelo Merisi from Caravaggio near Bergamo had in mind when he accepted a commission from Marquis Vincenzo Giustiniani in Rome in 1602. Nevertheless, Caravaggio's Amor was notably different from earlier representations of mythological figures. His Eros is cheeky, he laughs impertinently, and is aggressively roguish; he is also sexier than Cupid had ever been before. Speculation on what his left hand is doing behind his back fills volumes. All this may have contributed to making the painting Caravaggios most famous work and possibly the most celebrated Cupid in history. Moreover, Amor, who also stands for homosexuality and was the love child of the love goddess, Aphrodite, by the god of war, Mars, reflects the duality of Caravaggios own nature. A passionate lover of men his own age, he could be dangerously violent on occasion.

Caravaggio was a genius who was known for impish humour. He loved to stroll through the streets of Rome strumming on his guitar, yet he also had the reputation of being hot-tempered and was always getting into brawls. This trait tragically cut his career short. After years of impoverishment, he had finally achieved recognition. To show how successful he was, he even allowed a boy to carry his sword. On 29 May 1606, he was involved in a fight, which left one of the participants dead, murdered it was maintained by Caravaggio. Banished from Rome, he fled to Naples, Malta and Sicily, where paintings lined his path. At last he arrived in Monte Argentario, Tuscany, hoping to be permitted to return to Rome. In vain. He died of malaria in Monte Argentario at the age of thirty-six, "in squalor and neglect". As the irony of fate would have it, the Papal letter that would have permitted his return to Rome had already been sent.

It hardly seems a coincidence that Caravaggio should have introduced chiaroscuro, the dramatic contrast of light and shade, to European painting, since few painters had as much firsthand experience of light and dark in their own lives as he had.

K. Reichold, B. Graf


The Inspiration of Saint Matthew
Contarelli Chapel, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome

St. John the Baptist
Oil on canvas, 102,5 x 83 cm
Offentliche Kunstsammlung, Basle

Madonna di Loreto
Oil on canvas, 260 x 150 cm
S. Agostino, Rome

The Entombment
Oil on canvas, 300 x 203 cm
Pinacoteca, Vatican

The Crowning with Thorns
Oil on canvas, 178 x 125 cm
Cassa di Risparmi, Prato

St John the Baptist
Oil on canvas, 94 x 131 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome

St. John the Baptist
c. 1604
Oil on canvas, 172,5 x 104,5 cm
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

St Jerome
Oil on canvas, 118 x 81 cm
Monastery, Montserrat

The Sacrifice of Isaac
c. 1605
Oil on canvas, 116 x 173 cm
Piasecka-Johnson Collection, Princeton

St Jerome
c. 1606
Oil on canvas, 112 x 157 cm
Galleria Borghese, Rome

Ecce Homo
c. 1606
Oil on canvas, 128 x 103 cm
Palazzo Rosso, Genoa